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Phillipines Solidarity Network Wants NZ Action

27 February 2006

The Philippines Solidarity Network of Aotearoa calls on the New Zealand government to join us in condemning, in the strongest terms possible, the declaration of a State of Emergency by Philippines President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo.

This is the latest desperate move by the President to cling to power in the face of a tide of popular protest arising from the blatant electoral fraud that was used to steal the 2004 Presidential election.

It harks back to the 1972-86 reign of terror that the Philippine people endured when the murderous tyrant, Ferdinand Marcos, imposed martial law. The greatest irony is that this State of Emergency has been imposed during the 20th anniversary celebrations of Marcos' overthrow by the world famous People Power.

There are other troubling throwbacks to the Marcos dictatorship. One of the first people to be arrested on Friday was Representative Crispin Beltran, who became well-known to New Zealanders when we toured him through the country in 1999, in his capacity as a national trade union leader. He is being held on a 1985 charge i.e. one that dates from the martial law period.

In the not too distant past, New Zealand governments used to get greatly outraged when Communist countries on the other side of the world (such as Poland) sent the troops into the streets. But when it happens in our own backyard, not a peep from the Government so far.

We call on the Government to condemn this imposition of the State of Emergency. Call in the Philippine Ambassador and deliver that message in person. If necessary, withdraw our Ambassador from Manila and suspend diplomatic relations. Demand that the Sate of Emergency be revoked and that (the latest batch of political prisoners) be released immediately.

The root causes of the whole ongoing Philippine crisis are massive poverty, inequality, institutionalised State violence and corruption. There have been two simultaneous civil wars (one with Communists, the other with Muslim separatists) going on for decades.

One way that New Zealand could play a constructive role in the affairs of this near neighbour is by offering our expertise in brokering peace agreements.

The Philippines desperately needs peace and social justice. The last thing it needs is a reversion to a military dictatorship as a discredited and desperate President tries to cling to power. At this time of crisis, the Philippine people need all the help they can get. It's time for New Zealand to prove itself as their friend.

ENDS

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